New York Attorney General Letitia James turned down Governor Andrew Cuomo‘s new plan to investigate him for sexual harassment. She said that the law gave her office the authority to investigate, at least once he gave a referral. Janet DiFiore, Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals, would not play a role as the governor’s office suggested.
“To clarify, I do not accept the governor’s proposal,” James wrote in a statement Sunday. “The state’s Executive Law clearly gives my office the authority to investigate this matter once the governor provides a referral. While I have deep respect for Chief Judge DiFiore, I am the duly elected attorney general and it is my responsibility to carry out this task. The governor must provide this referral so an independent investigation with subpoena power can be conducted.”
New:@NewYorkStateAG James turns up the heat again on the governor, issuing a clarification that she rejects Cuomo’s call to send the matter to the state’s chief judge (his appointee).
— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) February 28, 2021
This follows after Cuomo’s office walked back their initial plan to investigate sexual harassment claims against the governor. Former Cuomo aides Lindsey Boylan and Charlotte Bennett stepped forward with allegations. After Bennett spoke out, Cuomo’s office announced a “independent review,” run by former federal Judge Barbara Jones, who used to work with former Cuomo aide Steve Cohen. State and federal elected Democrats called B.S. on this plan. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-New York, 10th District) and Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-New York, 19th District) separately said the governor should refer this case to James, who should appoint an independent investigator. They made no mention of DiFiore.
Nonetheless, Cuomo’s office walked back their original plan involving Jones. They instead said they asked James’ and DiFiore’s offices to jointly choose an “independent” lawyer. That’s not the process lawmakers demanded. As New York Attorney General, James is an elected official separate from Cuomo. The governor appointed DiFiore to her seat in 2015, and more recently, Democratic “political insiders” reportedly accused him of setting the stage for her daughter to become a judge.
Update – February 28, 5:37 p.m.: Cuomo once again changed plans, this time cutting DiFiore out of his request.
Cuomo retreats. Third statement from his office on this today. pic.twitter.com/8RFrPNUPyL
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) February 28, 2021
“The Governor’s office wants a thorough and independent review that is above reproach and beyond political interference,” said a new statement Sunday afternoon. “Therefore, the Governor’s office has asked Attorney General Tish James to select a qualified private lawyer to do an independent review of allegations of sexual harassment.”
[Image via Joshua Rashaad McFadden/Getty Images]
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